Boulder County's EAT LOCAL! Resource Guide & Directory


Designing for Backyard Change: Practical and Innovative Chicken Coop Designed by University of Colorado Students

Eric Millinger (big picture agriculture — June 11, 2010)

Backyard farming seems a bit counter-intuitive. Why take time out of our daily routine to grow food at home when we can just buy it at the grocery store? Isn’t saving our time and effort part of the reason we work long hours and strive to make money?

These questions seem to be ingrained in our culture’s DNA. Convenience is important, but so is preserving the environment, teaching children how to grow food, and building community resiliency. Yet there is an easy way to balance these values: practical and enjoyable design. Great design doesn’t change our values, it influences how we act on them. We seem to be waiting for a great design to empower people to grow food at home.

Architecture students at the University of Colorado at Boulder recently designed a chicken coop that transcends the traditional farming approach. The puzzling edifice may deter some, but most agree its modern style casts a refreshing light on backyard farming.

The chicken coop (now called Colorado Chicken Coop) was on display this winter at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition explored unconventional designs and featured a variety of other chicken coops created by University of Colorado students. In April, Architectural Record caught wind of the students’ chicken coop design and published a short article on the project.

Besides the aesthetic charm of the design, the coop remains practical. It flat-packs and can be shipped for much cheaper than a fully-constructed coop. Assembly is simplified with slotted joints to attach the panels and the ascending gradient of slits provides ample ventilation for hens.

The students are now producing and selling the Colorado Chicken Coops themselves to advance backyard farming. They see design and entrepreneurship as an effective tool for accomplishing social change. The goal is to make it easier for people to raise chickens through a practical and appealing design.

This project will hopefully be a stepping-stone for future designers. The right type of innovation will help propel us toward more localized food production. Young minds, entrepreneurship, and responsible businesses have a tremendous potential to advance the grassroots movement. The Backyard Farming Revolution may be right around the corner after all.


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